Most people, if they know a little about Feldenkrais think about it about becoming flexible, or moving more easily, and its true, and an important part of what Feldenkrais can do that you might find useful in your life.
But its more than that. Feldenkrais famously wrote:
“What I’m after is not flexible bodies, but flexible minds”
But what does that have to do with peace of mind? There are various reasons I would say it brings peace of mind. When you take time to get to know a part of yourself in depth, focussing on the structure- the skeleton- it brings us to the simplest and most solid physical form of ourselves. Feeling our deep core, (which has both solidity and lightness-bone isn’t completely solid all the way through) gives us a sense of grounding and security.
Meditation is allowing thoughts in and out without judgement, and in Feldenkrais lessons we do that too: learning to watch ourselves moving, learning to notice differences without criticising or judging. Part of many people’s anxiety is this sense that we might not be enough, or there’s something wrong with us. But, as we practise Feldenkrais we can begin to practise non- (or less to start) judgement in the lesson, and with it, acceptance of our whole self in other areas of our lives, off the mat.
Within practice of Feldenkrais is partially the art of slowing down, of paying attention to oneself in a non-goal oriented way- which gives us both space to learn, and to slow our breathing, which slows the heart rate, and encourages us into our para-sympathetic healing state. People often talk to me about the lessons as being a space of calm.
When we do anything in life, four things happen when we move: thinking, sensing, feeling and movement/action. When we reduce tension in our physical self it has an effect on mental space. The better oxygen can reach our cells, the clearer our ability to think calmly and rationally. The opposite of the tunnel vision we all get whilst under stress or duress.
We can’t have any strong emotion without a embodied response, (heightened emotion usually means heightened muscle tone). We can dial down the emotional tone by releasing in our bodies. For many I have taught it seems an emotional therapy from the inside out. Feldenkrais immodestly said (I paraphrase) that the best thing Freud had invented was the couch. By putting people in a horizontal position he was helping them physically to be in a position where they have most support from the Earth, and need to do the least to support themselves. When we are supported, when we feel safe, we have greater freedom to experiment, and less fear in moving out of our comfort zone; similar to a small child exploring, returning to their mother, and then zipping off to explore some more. When we can feel safe in ourselves, in our own body, then we can be open to the opportunities of challenges in our lives.
We can’t always access our thoughts about difficult subjects, and we don’t always want to, but we can move a leg, or hand. And within movements of a Feldenkrais session when we are taking care of ourselves is space. Space to pause, to think, or stop thinking. Time to connect all ourself together. The old song, the knee-bone’s connected to the thigh-bone (etc) is a familiar idea to a Feldenkrais teacher, but often our students can’t mentally connect their parts- and how can you ‘stand on your own two feet’ if you can’t feel how your feet connect up through the ankles, the legs, hips to the spine all the way to your head?
So that’s something we aim to do- to help people reconnect with themselves, through the physical, through to other parts of themselves. And when they start to do this, that’s where greater peace of mind can come from, and when we feel more connected, more joined up, safer in our greater self-knowledge, that’s often when other dreams, hopes and aspirations have space to come out.
My autumn term’s classes start on Wednesday the 4th, 7-8 in Highbury (email me for more details)
I’m running monthly Feldenkrais workshops for Musicians in conjunction with the Musicians’ Union. To sign up and more information, follow this link: